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Black Diamond Recon Stretch Shell - Women's Review

A sleek and technical backcountry shell with enough stretch, space, and breathability to be extremely versatile at a fair price
Black Diamond Recon Stretch Shell - Women's
Photo: Black Diamond Equipment
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $400 List | $399.00 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Breathable, versatile, comfortable, strong value, classic look
Cons:  No insulation
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Jacqueline Kearney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 7, 2020
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 12
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 8
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 9
  • Warmth - 20% 4
  • Ventilation - 20% 9
  • Style - 10% 8
  • Features - 10% 8

Our Verdict

Black Diamond steps up the hardshell game with this sleek offering. The women's Recon Stretch jacket manages to combine a supple, stretchy feel with outstanding weather resistance and breathability, a rare feat for waterproof shells that tend to feel stiff and crinkly. The slightly larger fit allows for plenty of room to layer underneath, letting you adjust your warmth for a wide range of conditions. As it is an uninsulated shell, this jacket is not the best option for you if you are seeking warmth. However, if you seek an unflappable outer layer that's fully capable of resort and backcountry use, we strongly recommend the Black Diamond Recon Stretch for its technical design at a comparatively modest price for a ski shell.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award   
Price $399.00 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$359.95 at Backcountry$251.16 at AmazonCheck Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
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Pros Breathable, versatile, comfortable, strong value, classic lookWarm, three jackets in one, well-constructed with thoughtful featuresInexpensive, stylish, warm, stretchy and comfortableStylish, good hood and neckline, no frills, inexpensiveInexpensive, three jackets in one, warm, comfortable
Cons No insulationSlim fit, heavyNot the most water resistant, runs a little small, not very breathableFeels cheap, not many ski-specific features, lacking in weather resistanceNot very stylish, hood not helmet compatible, two layers don't work well when zipped together
Bottom Line A sleek and technical backcountry shell with enough stretch, space, and breathability to be extremely versatile at a fair priceThis jacket is versatile and has all the necessary ski features for a long day on the hillAn inexpensive, synthetically insulated shell to keep you warm, dry, and stylish without breaking the bankWe got lots of compliments on this jacket's looks, but found it lacking in durability and full functionality on the slopesA decent deal for two jackets that can be worn in three combinations, this is a great intro ski jacket
Rating Categories Black Diamond Recon... The North Face Ther... Columbia Wild Card... Burton Jet Set Columbia Whirlibird...
Weather Resistance (20%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Comfort And Fit (20%)
9.0
6.0
6.0
7.0
6.0
Warmth (20%)
4.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
Ventilation (20%)
9.0
4.0
5.0
5.0
4.0
Style (10%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
Features (10%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
Specs Black Diamond Recon... The North Face Ther... Columbia Wild Card... Burton Jet Set Columbia Whirlibird...
Insulation None PrimaLoft ThermoBall Eco 60g Omni-Heat 80g Thermolite Thermarator
Waterproofing BD.dry DryVent 2L Omni-Tech DryRide 2L Omni-Tech
Weight (in pounds) 1.5 lbs 2.3 lbs 2.1 lbs 1.6 lbs 2.4 lbs
# of Pockets 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered pass, 1 zippered chest, 2 internal mesh 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest, 1 zippered sleeve (goggle-wipe), 1 internal goggle, [liner] 2 zippered hand 2 zippered hand, 2 zippered chest, 1 zippered pass, one internal mesh, 1 zippered internal 2 zippered hand, 1 mesh, 1 media Shell: 5, Liner: 3
Main Fabric 84% nylon, 16% elastane 100% recycled polyester, DWR treatment Omni-Tech Lux Stretch 94% Polyester/ 6% Elastane Polyester, nylon Legacy Dobby 72% Nylon/ 28% Polyester.
Unique Features removable powder skirt, 4-way stretch shell 3 jackets in 1, zippered hand pockets, outer layer has "mechanical stretch", side-zip venting mesh lined pit zips, headphone port, built-in spandex wrist gaiters Mesh-lined vents, mesh dump pocket, snag-free neckline 3-in-1, internal goggle pocket
Hood Option? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pit Zips? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cuff construction Velcro Velcro Velcro with wrist gaiters Velcro Velcro
Ski features Powder skirt, hem cinch, pass pocket, helmet compatible hood Powder skirt, helmet compatible hood, goggle pocket Powder skirt, hem cinch, pass pocket, helmet compatible hood Powder skirt, hem sinch, goggle pocket Powder skirt, pass and goggle pocket

Our Analysis and Test Results

Black Diamond manufactures a wide range of quality products for the outdoor world, and we are very impressed by this high-tech hardshell offering. We were also wowed by the quality of technical hardshell they offer at a great price, earning this jacket our recommendation for those looking for top notch performance in a ski touring shell without breaking the bank. The stretch in the BD.dry waterproof/breathable fabric is unique for a weatherproof hardshell and greatly improves the comfort and fit of this product. This jacket has a stylish, relaxed, and tapered silhouette that is at home ripping the resort or in the backcountry. We loved how this jacket was comfortable from the outset and had the burl to ride lifts all day in a storm combined with the ventilation to work hard on the way up or down.

Performance Comparison


The BD Recon Stretch right at home on a favorite backcountry tour in...
The BD Recon Stretch right at home on a favorite backcountry tour in Southwest Colorado.

Weather Resistance


The Recon Stretch is made of Black Diamond's proprietary BD.dry material. It is a three-layer hardshell with 4-way stretch integrated and a DWR coating. It has a 20,000mm waterproof rating, more than sufficient for heavy, wet snow, and rain. We noticed that water beaded off with ease during our shower test and did not pool or saturate the material. Underneath, the removable powder skirt keeps the elements out from the inside.


The construction of the jacket is also strong, with fully taped seams and DWR coated zippers. The front zipper is also taped, not sewn in, which provides an extra layer of weather resistance. We did not experience any leaking or chilly drafts when skiing at high speeds. The large helmet-compatible hood with two drawstrings and a high collar provide ideal protection on storm days.

A removeable powder skirt on the Recon Stretch adds an extra layer...
A removeable powder skirt on the Recon Stretch adds an extra layer of weather resistance when you need it. We like how it can be removed when you don't.

Comfort and Fit


This shell fits a little on the large side, which we like for the extra room to bulk up on layers underneath. The 4-way stretch of BD.dry allows for enough movement to be comfortable skiing and riding hard, bootpacking, and touring uphill. Additionally, the construction of the jacket in this stretchy material means that a fully zipped hood retains enough mobility to comfortably turn one's head and maintain visibility. We love that we can remain weatherproofed without sacrificing mobility. While fuzzy linings are sparse on this shell, the tricot backing on the zipper allows it to rest softly when you are fully bundled, including in the collar.


The Recon Stretch has slight tapering and a longer cut that is flattering and functional. This prevents too much bulk around the waist, making it comfortable to wear a pack over on storm days. There is also still enough room to use the internal drop pockets without crushing their contents. The pockets and features lie smoothly against your frame. Even the powder skirt doesn't pull or bunch awkwardly. We also love that we can remove the powder skirt when we don't need it, providing a more sleek feeling by taking out unnecessary material when the conditions don't require it.

The stretch in the Recon Stretch working well here for the many...
The stretch in the Recon Stretch working well here for the many transitions of a long day of touring. It allows great shoulder mobility and is comfortable under a pack.

Warmth


As a shell, this jacket has no insulation and consequently received a lower mark in this category. Note that this might be what you're looking for if you prefer to layer underneath a shell to fit the current day's temperature. The breathability and supple feel of this shell come at a cost to warmth, but if we had adequate layers underneath, we were impressed by its protective and wind-breaking qualities.


We noticed that this model is a touch more permeable to wind than the burliest hardshells out there, but we actually prefer the compromise Black Diamond made here to achieve a flexible, mobile, and more breathable shell. This helps this model be a great option for the backcountry while still providing sufficient wind blockage to keep you warm at the resort, provided that you wear appropriate layers underneath. It should be noted that maintaining proper temperature and not sweating through your baselayers can help you stay warmer throughout the day.

The lack of lining on the Recon Stretch doesn't get great marks for...
The lack of lining on the Recon Stretch doesn't get great marks for warmth, but it is great for adjusting layers as you need. Also pictured are the two internal mesh drop pockets great for skins, goggles, or snacks.

Ventilation


This jacket shines in this metric. The shell material was extremely breathable, allowing heat to escape and moisture to wick away even with all vents closed. This means not as much fussing around with layers and staying dry longer on the inside. This is key for maintaining the appropriate temperature and comfort from first to last chair.


To increase airflow when working hard or on warm, slushy days, the gaping pit zips with no mesh liners allow for quick heat release. These zippers are DWR treated to keep snow out and equipped with large rubber grips to let air in easily.

The large, open pit zips of the Recon Stretch are great for rapid...
The large, open pit zips of the Recon Stretch are great for rapid heat release when the breathability of the shell isn't enough.

Style


The no-frills design of this shell is sleek and classic. The smooth, taped zippers are on-trend, and the longer, slightly tapered cut is feminine without forcing the issue. The slightly oversized cut and longer hemline have a trendy freeride look. The muted tones and neutral color options will match a wide variety of personal styles and stay relevant for years to come. Our reviewers received many compliments while testing this jacket.


The smooth taped zippers and slightly longer cut of the Recon...
The smooth taped zippers and slightly longer cut of the Recon Stretch are feminine but not forced.

Ski Features


The ski features on the BD Recon Stretch are geared toward backcountry use but will work well for the resort, too. Two large internal drop pockets work well for storing your goggles or climbing skins. The hand pockets are large. Reaching upward into the jacket's front panels, we have a hard time imagining a ski accessory that wouldn't fit. There is a low profile pass pocket on the upper left arm, good for a ski pass or small cards and keys that you may not want to risk pulling out when checking your phone. The only pocket this jacket might be missing is an internal pocket with a zipper that keeps its contents warm and extra dry.


We love the removable powder skirt and wish that every jacket had this, as we think it can feel restrictive on anything but the deepest days. Even when it's attached, the powder skirt in this option adds minimal bulk, ready to snap into action. When the powder skirt is not in use, the drawcord on the hem can help keep light snow and drafts from creeping into your base layers. The cuffs have unique rubber grips on the hook and loop closures to allow quick adjustments with gloves on.

We really liked how the rubber construction of the Recon Stretch...
We really liked how the rubber construction of the Recon Stretch cuff adjusters resisted freezing and caking with snow, keeping snow and most drafts out.

Value


We think that the level of technology Black Diamond offers at this price point is remarkable. It is high performing and versatile, able to fill a one-shell quiver. This jacket has the potential to work as mainly a resort shell that transitions to backcountry tours if you need it. Relatedly, its only downside is that it won't provide any additional insulation. We also had some hesitations about the durability of this new, stretchy windproof/waterproof material. We haven't been able to put it through multiple seasons of use yet to see how its longevity fares. For a high-tech shell, we think this price is a bargain relative to other high-performing ski shells.

Conclusion


If you are looking for a hardshell that allows you the freedom to insulate as you please and won't break the bank doing so, we recommend the Recon Stretch Shell. With just the right amount of functional features and waterproof, windproof, breathable fabric, this shell is high performing and versatile. Add this to its sleek style, and this shell is an excellent option.

A hardshell that's at home in the backcountry, the Recon Stretch...
A hardshell that's at home in the backcountry, the Recon Stretch will transition into resort skiing easily too.

Jacqueline Kearney